02/26/2016 4:07PM

Freshman class has plenty of potential

Shigeki Kikkawa
The Factor is among the promising stallions with his first auction juveniles and runners this year.

One of the many signs of spring abounding in the Thoroughbred industry at this time of year are the names of new stallions scattered through the catalog pages for the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. With the juvenile sales calendar opening and 2-year-old racing in major jurisdictions beginning in April, one of the major story lines in the coming months will be the commercial and on-track success of this year’s first-crop sires. Leading an outstanding freshman class are several classic winners and classic-placed runners, a handful of champions, and several other Grade 1 winners ideally positioned for success.

Classic-placed Grade 1 winner Bodemeister has stood out at each checkpoint of his nascent stud career, finishing as the leading first-year commercial yearling sire of 2015, with an average price of $169,806 from 80 horses sold. Standing at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., he is represented by six juveniles in the Fasig-Tipton Florida catalog.

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Bodemeister, a son of Empire Maker campaigned by Zayat Stables, burst into the national spotlight nearly four years ago when he romped by 9 1/2 lengths in the Arkansas Derby in just his fourth start. He went on to finish a strong second to I’ll Have Another in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags has always been well regarded, and last year multiple Grade 1 winner The Factor emerged as a commercial force, giving Lane’s End in Versailles a strong one-two punch in this year’s freshman sire race. The Factor, whose 2015 yearling average was $140,894 from 76 sold, has six juveniles cataloged at Fasig-Tipton. Union Rags, who averaged $132,410 from 61 yearlings, has seven in the catalog.

Union Rags, a son of Dixie Union, was a Grade 1 winner as a juvenile for owner Phyllis Wyeth. Following a frustrating early-spring campaign, he rebounded to win the Belmont Stakes in what would be his final start.

The Factor, by War Front, won a pair of Grade 1 sprints in California, taking the Malibu and the Pat O’Brien. He won three other graded events and placed in two other Grade 1 sprint stakes.

Popular commercial sire War Front is the only stallion in recent years to challenge the commercial dominance of two-time leading sire Tapit. The leading freshman sire of 2008, Tapit stands alongside one of his more accomplished sons, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar, at Gainesway in Lexington, Ky. Tapizar, whose yearling average was $91,627 for 59 sold, has two progeny at Fasig-Tipton Florida. Among other young stallions trying to follow in Tapit’s footsteps are his juvenile champion Hansen, who stood his only U.S. season at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles before being exported to Korea.

Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky., stands a trio of Grade 1 winners with their first progeny to hit the track this year, led by classic winner Shackleford (by Forestry). The popular runner captured the 2011 Preakness Stakes and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap, yet was also brilliant enough to go one turn, winning the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap as well as the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes over sprint champion Amazombie. Dialed In (Mineshaft) scored his biggest victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby over Shackleford. Jersey Town (Speightstown) was campaigned by Charles Fipke and could receive a commercial boost with the support of that owner’s broodmare band.

Maclean’s Music (Distorted Humor), standing at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Lexington, won his only career start in smashing fashion, winning by 7 1/4 lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 114, the highest ever by a debut runner. His foals are likely to be well received in a commercial market that values brilliance.

Grade 1-winning juvenile Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway) was another member of the 3-year-old class of 2012, finishing third behind I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Standing at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky., he drew the support of that operation’s outstanding broodmare band, with members of his first crop including half-siblings to Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, Grade 1 winners Include Me Out and Check the Label, and Canadian champions Biofuel and Tu Endie Wei.

Other Grade/Group 1 winners making up this freshman class in Kentucky include Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb’s Posse (Posse) and the versatile Brilliant Speed (Dynaformer), both at Three Chimneys in Midway; classic-placed Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) at Ashford; To Honor and Serve (Bernardini) at Gainesway; Get Stormy (Stormy Atlantic) at Crestwood Farm; Gemologist (Tiznow) at WinStar; and Melbourne Cup winner Americain (Dynaformer) at Calumet Farm in Lexington.

Grade/Group 1 winners elsewhere in the U.S. with their first runners this year include champion Acclamation (Unusual Heat), standing at Old English Rancho in California; Coil (Point Given), standing at Magali Farms in California; Biondetti (Bernardini), standing at Woodford Thoroughbreds in Florida; and Boys At Tosconova (Officer) at Questroyal North in New York.

The most highly anticipated first crop worldwide this year belongs to Europe’s unbeaten two-time Horse of the Year Frankel (Galileo), who launched his career at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket, England, with a star-studded first book. No foals from his first crop are currently cataloged at major U.S. sales; however, there is one cataloged by his Group 3-winning three-quarter-brother Bullet Train (Sadler’s Wells), who is standing at Crestwood Farm.

Other international stallions with their first runners this year will include dual classic winner and champion I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley), standing at Big Red Farm in Hokkaido, Japan.